First aid advice for burns and scalds
There are lots of ways you can accidentally burn or scald yourself, from taking something out of the oven to spilling hot water, and even sunburn. Severe burns and scalds need to be treated by a doctor, but you can take care of minor injuries at home. With the right treatment, you can keep the wound clean and allow it to heal.
What’s the Difference Between a Burn and Scald?
People often use the words burn and scald interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two types of injury. A burn is caused by dry heat, so you might burn yourself on a candle or by accidentally touching a hot pan. Hot liquids or steam cause a scald, so you might scald yourself by spilling soup into your lap or reaching across a steaming kettle. There are various types of skin burns and scald burn, including friction burn, hot water burn and burns from dry heat, such as hot items in the kitchen.
Burn Treatment Myths
There are several things that you might have heard about treating burns and scalds that aren’t quite right, and could even make your injury worse. For example, many people think that you should immediately run a burn under cold water. However, it’s best not to use very cold water or ice to treat a burn or scald. Instead, the best way to treat a burn is to use lukewarm water or hydrogel burns dressing.
Another myth that you might have heard about home remedies for burns is that you should cover a burn in butter or even an oil-based lotion. There are some products that you can use to put on a burn or scald, but butter certainly isn’t one of them. Other foods you might have heard can treat a burn include vinegar, honey, egg white, and even potato. To be safe, avoid putting any food on a burn.
Finally, if a blister forms, you shouldn’t pop it. Blisters are part of the healing process, helping to protect your skin while it burns. Bursting it will disrupt the healing, so it’s best not to do it.
How to Treat a Burn or Scald
Many minor burns and scalds can be taken care of with burn treatment at home. The first thing to do if you burn or scald yourself is to stop the burning process as quickly as possible. This means putting out any flames, washing off hot liquid or moving from the area where you are exposed to heat. You should also remove anything from the area around the burnt skin, such as clothes or jewellery, unless something has stuck to the skin. Use lukewarm water or burn gel to cool the burn for 20 minutes, but make sure that you keep the rest of yourself warm.
Our burn first aid kits contain everything you need to treat a burn or scald at home. You can use a burn gel to help cool the burn and prevent infection. A hydrogel burn dressing also keeps the wound clean and has a soothing effect, making it one of the best treatments for burns. If you don’t have any clean dressings, you can also cover the burn in cling film. Painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen are useful to help treat the pain. You should try to sit up, instead of lying down, which will help to reduce any swelling.
When to See a Doctor
Not all types of burn and scald can be treated entirely at home. You can treat first and second-degree burns at home but third-degree burns and some other burns need to be seen by a doctor. After completing the steps above, you should consider whether you need to go to the hospital. If the burn is large or deep and bigger than your hand or has caused white or charred skin, you should go to your nearest accident and emergency.
Other warning signs to look out for include blisters, especially on your face, arms, legs, hands, feet or genitals. All chemical and electrical burns should be looked at by a doctor. You should also seek medical attention right away if you have other injuries or are going into shock. Anyone who is pregnant or either over age 60 or under age five also needs medical assistance as soon as possible. If you have a medical condition such as heart, lung or liver disease, or diabetes, or you have a compromised immune system, you should go to the hospital.
Sunburn can usually be treated at home, but it’s important to watch out for any signs of heatstroke.